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     Volume 8 Issue 78 | July 17, 2009 |

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Current Affairs

Red is not Dead

Dilip Barua has made history by becoming the first communist to hold a ministry; five Marxist MPs have been elected to the parliament; yet the nearly 100-year-old communist movement in the country is yet to come of age

AM Hussain

Mujahidul Islam Selim, general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), thinks the victory of five communist candidates from two different parties stinks of compromise. In the run up to the last elections, the Workers' Party of Bangladesh (WPB) and Jatiyo Shomajtantrik Dal (JSD) along with 11 other left-leaning parties formed the 14-party Alliance with the Awami League, which later joined hands with deposed President General HM Ershad's Jatya Party. The alliance and Ershad formed the Mahajote or Grand Alliance (GA) that shared seats in the elections, and enjoyed a resounding victory in the elections.

In fact, the GA, even though it has begged 261 seats (out of 300, unprecedented in Bangladesh's history), the alliance, there is no doubt, has become a strange unity of the opposites. Not many years ago all the four parties launched a bloody mass movement that saw the ouster of Gen Ershad from the helm. The deposed dictator was arrested and was served prison sentences. Selim thinks making an alliance with the dictator is no less than opportunistic. "One of the reasons we did not join the Grand Alliance was because it had Ershad and his Jatya Party," he says.

The CPB went to the polls battle alone, and even though it is the largest communist party in the country, has failed to win any seat.

The CPB went to the polls battle alone, and even though it is the largest communist party in the country, has failed to win any seat. Selim says that they could not go to the masses with the party's policies, and the failure to create a good base in different constituencies is still there. Rashed Khan Menon, who has won the Ramna Green seat at the heart of the capital, has told the Star after his victory that it is a victory of people. He says that he is committed to be the voice of the oppressed of the country.

This is not for the first time that five communists have made it to the big building at Manik Mia Avenue. In the first general elections after the restoration of democracy (the fall of Ershad) in 1991, the CPB alone won five seats, United Communist League (UCL) won one, the WPB got one; Ohidul Alam, the lone UCL MP, later joined the CPB, making it the biggest communist presence ever. The euphoria soon turned into a nightmare: the CPB split into three--one group, led by Selim, wanted a communist revival; another wanted to merge into Dr Kamal Hossain's Gono Forum; in the worst case scenario, Shamsuddoha, the CPB's then parliamentary group leader, wanted the party to be merged into the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. It was probably the hardest of times that the CPB has gone through.

The JSD, for its turn, has had its equal share of misery. Born after the independence of the country, the party once thought to have housed the best and the brightest of the country's youth. During the events of November 7, 1975, the party was perhaps closer to seizing power; but its fall started no sooner than that. Gen Ziaur Rahman, who grabbed power in a bloody coup, turned his wheel on the JSD too. The party soon found itself ideologically divided, over the eighties and nineties the JSD was split into seven factions and Hasanul Haq Inu now holds the socialist fort. Because of the factionalism, which has plagued the party over the last two decades, the JSD, organisationally speaking, is not in good shape. Had the JSD fought the elections alone, it would have been difficult for the party, if not impossible, to win even a single seat. Six months gone, the JSD has not started any significant organisational drive; its strengths lie in different pockets of the country, it has not yet become a national force to reckon with. The WPB, too, has never had a good organisational base across the country; it has so far limited itself to Rajshahi and some southwestern districts.

After five-years of the BNP-led Four-party Alliance government's corruption and misrule the voters of the country turned to the GA and voted resoundingly in its favour. The number of seats that the Lefts have won does not necessarily translate into a rejuvenation of the Left in Bangladesh. Miraculous it may sound like this: 84 years after the first communist party was founded in the region, the country's Left movement has managed to remain in its infancy.


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